Author Archives: John Ferguson

Lessons Learned (Personal)

Hey all,

In the spirit of being completely open, I’m going to admit that I did something stupid.

I’ve been setting up a fancy audio system in my office–after all, I listen to music 12 hours a day (at a minimum) so it’s a very worthwhile investment. I’m driving a Peachtree Nova from the digital coax output of my computer; I have the Peachtree set up as a preamp (even though it has an amplifier function because I’m using a McIntosh MC275 tube amp. All of this is going to Lipinski 707 studio monitors on my desk. Yes, they are enormous. I have a Y connector from the preamp outs so I can simultaneously run a sub. As nice as the Lipinskys are, they are a sealed-box design, so they have little bass.

 

The other day I decided to try the Toslink output (I had tried the USB output previously, but I can’t get the driver to work on my shitty Windows 7 computer. I had an optical cable still in the package because I was going to use it to drive the audio from my television, but I later found out that the optical out doesn’t work if you are using HDMI in. Why, I don’t know, but that’s what it says in the instruction.

I plugged in the cable to my computer, noting that they fit poorly, and then into my preamp and listened to some music. It sounded subtly crappy. The balance was off a little to the right, the bass was flabby. So I went on a hunt for the problem, switching around tubes, plugging and unplugging things.

Well, I FORGOT TO REMOVE THE LITTLE CLEAR RUBBER CONDOMS FROM THE END OF THE TOSLINK CABLE.

That is all. There goes a couple hours of my life (and 2 minutes of yours for reading this)!

Good news though: I managed a 9.5-mile hike up Gertrude’s Nose in the Shawangunks. A+ hike, a little hard climbing all those rocks with one fully functional and one partially functional arm, though.

John

 

 

All Your Anechoic Chambers Belong to Me

]Went out for a very brief first ride today. Only 9 miles!

So…anyone know of an anechoic chamber in the tristate area that I would be allowed to use–even if I have to do an all-night session? I have several calls in, including one to my alma mater, but no dice so far.

The reason? I need to take some exceedingly accurate measurements in order to design my crossover. Now, I could do them by correcting for reflection from the floor and ceiling, but that wouldn’t be as much fun, would it?

measuring_a_diffuser_in_an_anechoic_chamber

Personal: Finding the Right Cap

As you can see from the below my hobby while not able to ride has become audiophilia. Rational audiophila, but audiophilia nonetheless.

I’ve decided to try my hand at developing an active triamped system using DEQX as a room correction system/electronic crossover (actually, the speaker is biamped and I’ll be running dual powered subs, so in essence it is a triamped system). I’ll write more about what this means, why I’m interested, and how I chose DEQX in a later post–in fact, I plan to document the entire process so that it can be replicated by someone equally naive. It should be interesting, as the hardware comes with a 178-page manual, and I also have to learn about DACs and a lot more details about amplifiers and speakers than my current “that sounds nice.”

I reserve the right to go back and edit these posts, as I’m likely to convey a lot of misinformation as I go along. In fact, I definitely will be coming back to these and cleaning them up so that it becomes an effective guide.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Before I scare you off DEQX forever, you should be aware that a) basic setup, which provides truly astonishing sound, is simple even for the technically disinclined; b) a dealer can set it up for you; and c) you can get a free 3-hour setup session via Skype if you prefer to take a middle route. I am just going the absolute hardest route–setting it up myself and using all of the most advanced features–because I find it entertaining.

I also plan to give some plugs to the various techs and businesses that are helping me figure this out and suffering through my dumb questions.

For now, though, I need a capacitor. Why? Regular passive speakers have a crossover that divides the signal from the amplifier so that the high frequencies go to the tweeter and the low frequencies go to woofer. The crossover acts as a natural protection against the amp frying the tweeter (the woofers are, apparently, more tolerant). Because active amplification means that I’m connecting the tweeter and the woofer directly to the amp, the tweeter needs some form of protection. And that protection takes the form of a capacitor.

So, capacitors (which store electric charge) come in all different values, measured in microFarads. I needed to figure out what size to get. According to the DEQX manual, I needed one that falls 2 octaves below my crossover point (the point where the frequencies are divided into high and low for the tweeter and the woofer), which in this case is 2800 Hz. Octaves are not linear, instead there is a 2:1 relationship. So 2 octaves below 2800 Hz is 700 Hz (divide 2800 by 4). (One octave below would be 2800/2 = 1400 Hz, and three octaves below would be 2800/8, or 350 Hz).

Then I had to get my tweeter data sheet to identify the resistance in Ohms at 2800 Hz–which turns out to be very close to 8 Ohms.

Now, plugging that into this handy formula:

C=1/(2*pi*f*R)

C=1/(2*3.14*700*8)= 2.84 x 10^(-5) = 28 uF

So I need a 28 uF capacitor. That value isn’t common, so I chose a 33 uF capacitor, which I purchased from the nice Canadians at PartsConnexion. Voila!

(Obviously this is a 6.8 uF capacitor, not 33 uF).

Alternatively, you can use this website to calculate the required capacitance:

http://www.claredot.net/en/sec-Sound/high-pass-cross-over-6dB.php

Good times were had by all. Now I have to learn to solder.

Executive Summary:

  • In an active biamped or triamped situation, a protective capacitor between the tweeter and binding post is desirable
  • The correct capacitance is determined in X steps: 1) Get your tweeter data sheet and find the resistance in Ohms at the crossover point you choose; 2) find the frequency that is 2 octaves below your crossover point by dividing the crossover frequency by 4
  • Plug it into the website above
  • Buy two from PartsConnexion (because they are lovely Canadians)

To be continued.

John

Personal: Connecting Cello Stereo Components — The Elusive Fischer 104 Connector

Remember when I said don’t read my personal posts? There are going to be a lot over the next few months as I recover. Just general stuff I’m thinking about.

I have the pleasure and privilege of owning some Cello gear. Cello was a company started by Mark Levinson that sold very high-end audio equipment in the 90s. Many of the components were used in professional audio studios.

For example, here’s the Audio Suite and Palette, perhaps the finest equalizer ever made (I’m a strong believer in the value of tone controls, none of that audiophile short-path pure signal bullshit).

audio-palette

The major problem with Cello gear is that instead of using standard balanced XLR connectors, they used some crazy Fischer connectors because they “sound better” (audiophile bullshit). It’s virtually impossible to find the proper information on these cables, much less get them made.

After extensive research, and some help from my friends at Blue Jeans Cable, I found the correct part numbers. I’m putting them here as a public service announcement so that nobody needs to go through what I did to find these little assholes.

S104A040-80 male with E3104.3/8.7+B strain relief (fits cables up to 8.7mm D).

S104Z040-80 female with E3104.3/8.7+B strain relief (fits cables up to 8.7mm D).

fischer-s104-3-pin

In case you want to make your own cables, you can buy them from Michael Percy at Percy Audio. I recommend Blue Jeans cable though–well made, inexpensive, and no weird superstitious crap about cables and connectors sounding different etc.

Bored yet? I’m making a long list of rides and hikes to do as soon as I recover fully…hoping to get back on the bike by October!

Aumick Road Hike

Yesterday’s adventure was a hike up Awosting Road to the top of the Shawangunk Ridge. I’m almost hesitant to give this one up, as we only rarely see other people on this hike, so I almost feel like it’s my own private path…nevertheless here it is.

Aumick

It’s moderately challenging: About 4 miles (8 miles round trip), 1400 feet of elevation gain. There are a few sections where my mastiff looks at me like “why the hell are you torturing me like this?”

It’s worth the effort, though, particularly when you get close to the top, where the scenery takes a distinctly Lord of the Rings turn. Magnified on the day that we hiked this by plenty of fog. I know my sometime co-blogger John S rides this on his bike, but he clearly doesn’t go the same way we hike this path–it’s far too rocky to ride, and there are 18% plus grades on loose gravel. This picture doesn’t remotely do justice to the beauty of this hike.

A Hike

A hint if you decide to hike it: you’ll come to a number of forks. With the exception of the first, where you’ll take a left, always take the right fork.

John

2015

Hi everyone!

Sorry I haven’t been keeping up with the blog. I have been riding a lot, it’s just that there isn’t quite as much mystery and adventure or as many pitchfork-wielding hillbillies on the Hudson side of the Shawangunk Ridge, so there’s less to report. It’s lovely riding, but it lacks the splendid–and sometimes scary–isolation of riding in the Catskills proper. Yes, I can still get over to my old stomping grounds, but the minimum round trip is 60 miles, so as you can imagine it isn’t a routine weekday kind of thing.

So, this year: Only 3780 miles, assuming I manage to get out for another 80 miles before the end of the year. A pittance compared with my all-time high of 8500+ in 2012, when I first moved to Ulster County. Home ownership and the job have gotten in the way of more time on the bike, but I think this is enough miles to feel reasonably good about myself.

My regular riding companion, who will remain nameless here, has been sidelined by first plantar fasciitis and then Lyme’s disease, poor guy. Yet another reason why I haven’t been out on too many adventures–sometimes it takes a commitment to someone else to spur me on to some of the dumber rides I’ve done. And finding someone who rides the way I do isn’t easy.

20151031_125951

So if you live nearby, like very long rides, getting lost in the middle of a sleet storm,  returning home somewhere between 2 and 5 hours late, and taking long accidental hikes in road shoes over boulder-strewn goat paths in the high Catskills, ring me up. I should mention that someone told me that I like to turn any enjoyable activity into a death march–for example, instead of planting 50 daffodil bulbs like a normal person, I planted over 2500 and managed to strain not one, but both biceps to the point where picking up my new kitten hurt. So it goes with riding as well: It’s not fun unless you’re so burnt that you don’t know how you’re going to make it home!

20151024_130437.jpg

If you’re looking for a good route in the area, please remember that you can always go to my ridewithgps page. Questions? Feel free to e-mail.

Have a happy new year, all.

 

 

Garden Break

Home ownership is such a pain. Why didn’t you guys tell me? It’s one thing owning an apartment in the city. Having a house with a yard takes exponentially more work.

But there are some rewards. This is the mess that has been made in my front yard.

Coming this week: A report on the Otisville 80.

John F

The Best Ride: Bruderhof Loop

Finally back in gear for the summer!

This weekend, I did a variation on my favorite ride: Up the ridge on 44/55, then a nice long decent on Stony Kill Road.

Best view of the Catskills (unfortunately obscured on this day):

I ran into my co-blogger, John S, on the way down Stony Kill. I was hauling ass at that point since it was slightly downhill, and I’m sure John was going his usual speed (fast), so I didn’t realize until about a mile later who I passed. I subsequently got a confirmatory text from John. Sorry I missed you!

After a quick stop at Subway for lunch, I continued on to Rosendale. Now, normally when I have limited time I take the bike path over the Rosendale bridge and back home. Unfortunately, the river and the highway collude to result in few options for heading east from Rosendale. So today, I continued through Rosendale, in search of a passage over the Wallkill that didn’t involve riding on Route 213 for longer than I had to.

I found it! A little muddy though:

Good times on a road bike:

This dirt path (I wouldn’t call it a road) ultimately leads to a covered bridge….

Which looks quite charming here, but I cropped out the 4 lanes of vehicular manslaughter just to the right. Nevertheless, a better route than 213. Thereafter, I headed up Cow Hough Road–a bigger and tougher climb than I remembered, but I was probably already burnt from climbing over the ridge.

Here’s the route.

Overall I give it an A+. Highly recommended, especially if you don’t mind getting really dirty.

I’ve got a good one planned for this weekend! “Good” meaning I’ll probably hate life and regret ever deciding to take up cycling at about mile 80. That’s the way I roll.

John F

medicalwriter.net

 

 

 

New Bike Day! The GT Grade

Hi all. It’s been a while. So long, in fact, that I couldn’t even remember how to log in. I’m hoping for more consistent posts in the near future.

Anyway–last Saturday was new bike day. A GT Grade, carbon fiber, Ultegra group with HYDRAULIC BRAKES (more about that in a moment).

Margot  was kind enough to drive me up to Saugerties, where I picked up the bike at Revolution Bicycles. Normally I’d go with my local shop, the Bicycle Depot in New Paltz, because I know and trust them and they have provided nothing but excellent service, but they are not a GT dealer. In any case, Revolution Bicycles was great. We did the final set up of the bike while I waited, which included removing the crappy tires it came with and putting on Compass Stampede Pass Extralight 32 mm tires and switching the seatpost to something more suitable.

Once set up, I set out on a planned 51-mile ride back home. Yeah, I know it’s dumb to ride an untried bike in an isolated area without a proper shakedown cruise, but that’s what I did. And the bike turned out to be so good that I took a few detours and ended up riding much farther–and climbing many more feet (~4300) than originally planned.

Revo-Home Map

Here’s the bike.

The only issue that cropped up was that the saddle was set way too far forward, which I didn’t really notice until about 20 miles into the ride. Of course, I ignored it for another 10-15 miles and ended up with terminal crippling ass pain. I got off the bike and slammed the saddle back to where it should have been, and things improved greatly.

Now, the bike: Spectacular. I’ve been a Campagnolo proponent for a long time, and I begrudgingly use SRAM on one bike although, I have to admit, I really hate it. So this was my first time on modern Shimano, and my first time with hydraulic brakes. Can I say HOLY SHIT HYDRAULIC BRAKES! I’ve been riding a bike with mechanical discs and I hated them. When they weren’t rubbing they weren’t braking, and vice versa. Hydraulic discs truly change the riding experience.

Like most of you with caliper brakes, I rarely touch the rear brake except in 3 situations: 1) When I’m riding on icy roads (to avoid a front washout and a crash); 2) when I’m riding on gravel (again, to avoid locking up the front); and 3) when I’m descending something long and twisty to give the front brake a break before the rim turns cherry red. Hydraulic brakes, on the other hand, provide a perfectly functional rear brake that, if you hang your ass off the back of the saddle, is nearly as functional as the front. That means much faster, more confident descending. I’m actually surprised the pros haven’t switched yet–it’s that much better and a hell of a lot safer than caliper brakes.

Only one picture from this ride:

John F

medicalwriter.net

Lake MX331 Review Continued: Half a Pair is Better than None

Alas, not all is perfect with my new shoes. Thus far, I’ve ridden about 350 miles in them and there is some bad and some good.

The right shoe is very comfortable. I spent some time heat-molding it, and the really great thing is that, once appropriately molded, the retention can be left relatively loose (meaning, still tight but not as tight as would be otherwise necessary). This has a very clear benefit: On longer rides I experience none of the suffering that comes with tight shoes cutting off blood supply. The soles are extraordinarily stiff–precisely what I was looking for: A combination of the stiffness of a road shoe with some degree of walkability when absolutely needed.

That’s the right shoe. The left shoe, while it has potential, leaves something to be desired. There’s a manufacturing defect in the sole that results in an uncomfortable bump right under my toes. I suspect it would be less unpleasant in summer socks, but in winter socks it squeezes my toes into the top of the toe box. While not outright uncomfortable during the shorter (<70-mile) rides I’ve been doing over the last few weeks, it is very irritating and is likely to become a major issue during longer rides. In fact, I can sort of feel an incipient blister from yesterday’s piddly 30-mile ride.

So, I’ve contacted bikeshoes.com* to see if they can send me just a new left shoe. I don’t really want to return the current pair until I have a replacement, as that would leave me switching back to road pedals–and I’ve been rather enjoying the capability of being able to hike-a-bike through mud and snow when needed.

So, that’s the report so far. Based on the right shoe, I suspect this will be an amazing pair of shoes–I just need a left without a manufacturing defect.

…And tonight I’ll get around to reporting on my adventures so far this season.

John

medicalwriter.net

*Whenever possible, I try to buy stuff from my local bike shop, The Bicycle Depot. Bike shoes are just one of those things that are almost impossible to buy locally due to the need to stock a broad range of sizes for multiple models.